"Politics is the struggle for existence" - Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, "Adagia"
Although political rhetoric has always been charged, emotional, even brutally competitive, the language used by news outlets reveals a good deal about the way that they deal with politics. The term long-used to describe our current style of coverage - "horse-race" politics - isn't quite as accurate as it once was. I think that a more pithy name would be "gridiron politics." Take a look at some of the recent language used in a Washington Post article discussing the antics of pedophile cum congressman Mark Foley (visual pun definitely intended):
"Strategists:" these people used to be called "consultants" or "advisors."
The "strategy" of these strategists "relies on waiting for the story to die down . . . while also accusing Democrats of exploiting a personal lapse for political gain."
Bluntly stated, the pot will call the kettle black. Let's not forget that these are the same people who "exploited a personal lapse" by trying to remove a man from office for lying about a blowjob received from a consenting adult. That, by the way, is a "personal lapse." Pedophilia is not a "personal lapse." It's a goddamn felony. Play defense - maybe wait for the punt, then RAM IT DOWN THEIR THROATS! Knute Rockne would be proud.
"The impact of the Foley scandal will be felt" - Hit. Hit hard.
"local factors could amplify the scandal's destructive power" - Men, Football is war. This is getting ridiculous.
The Washington Post is not alone in its rhetorical strategy; however, as a respected publication, it does set standards for others to follow. The worst aspect of it all is this: the coverage has become so competition-oriented, with reporters struggling to frame political stories in athletic or military metaphors, and reporters in other departments beginning to adopt similar binary structures of conflict, that I'm not sure Americans could understand actual, issue-oriented news coverage anymore.
currently on miPod - Carl Maria von Weber, Symphony no 2.2